Mo Farah’s ‘terrifying collapse’: tell me about it

Aug 13, 2014
Robert Chesshyre

Our columnist may not be as quick as Mo: but he can compete when it comes to midnight mysteries

Tom Dulat/Getty Images

These days it would probably take me as long to run 100 metres as it would take Mo Farah to complete a mile. But – apart from both living in the London Borough of Richmond – we do have one thing in common. In the past weeks we have both collapsed and done ourselves considerable physical mischief in mysterious circumstances in the middle of the night. And in both cases it was in the bathroom.

Mo has now revealed that it was because of this fall that he pulled out of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. I have pulled out of nothing, but the parallels are strangely uncanny. Mo had severe stomach pains; I had – I think – seafood poisoning. In any event, I was severely sick just before collapsing. Mo chipped a tooth which had to be removed; I loosened several teeth – and bit my tongue severely.

In my case I have no memory of either falling or coming to. The first I knew of the trauma was waking in the morning and finding the glass missing from my watch. As I struggled out of bed, I realised that I had a bruise on my head, a black eye (the other turned into a shiner two days later) and a wound on my left shoulder. I was in France, and delayed seeing a doctor until I got back; Mo was airlifted to a Californian hospital.

The likely explanation was that I had eaten a bad oyster or mussel, which caused me to be violently sick. The lack of liquid remaining in the system then may have caused a faint, nature’s way of getting a blood supply back to the brain. [Unkind friends suggested that it might have been the grape, but I had only arrived in France and had my first drink a short time before the late meal and bed.]

Mo – as a top athlete – had four days in hospital: when I finally went to my GP, he insisted that I had an immediate brain scan. I might, he said, have had a ‘fit’ – the badly bitten tongue was a possible indicator of that – a rather worrying suggestion as it would have had further ramifications. My ‘mystery’ made a good tale: we never did find the watch glass, which would have been the one clue to where exactly I fell; and I was able to regale a lunch later that day with the gaudy details of my fall.

Mo has now told the media what happened to him: there had been a fear (happily in the event unjustified) that there might have been something wrong with his heart. He had a battery of tests back in England, and has been cleared to run in the about-to-begin European championships. But he did say – and here our stories come together again – “It takes a lot out of you mentally”.

I was quite shattered for several days. My teeth are almost back to normal, but I clearly hurt my neck as I am still suffering from “whiplash”. And I feel shaken, learning that I could have a fall and know nothing about it. Yesterday the scan result showed no lasting damage. Neil Black, the British Athletics performance director, described Mo’s misadventure as a “terrifying collapse”. I can second that.

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